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Natural Awakenings

$ave Earth: Eco-Driving Pays Big

Mar 31, 2011 11:34AM

Subtle changes in driving habits can produce significant benefits, saving money at the gas pump and reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Practicing moderate levels of eco-driving typically reduces fuel use by an average of 15 percent. (Maintaining properly inflated tires adds 3 percent more.) Here are best practices for green driving in honor of Earth Day, April 22.

Avoid Rapid Starts and Stops
– Jackrabbit starts and stops use more fuel. Gentle acceleration and smooth braking, especially around corners, can save $1 per gallon, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), improving fuel economy by up to 33 percent.

Keep on Rolling – Slow-and-go is always better than stop-and-go, because maintaining a constant speed in congestion increases fuel economy; it can take 20 percent more fuel to accelerate from a full stop than from 5 miles per hour. Anticipate stops and coast when possible.

Ride the Green Wave – Traffic lights are often synchronized so that a motorist driving at a specific speed will pass through many without needing to stop, delivering better fuel efficiency.

Limit Air Conditioning – Air conditioning can reduce mileage by as much as 20 percent. When driving below 40 mph, opening windows is best. At over 40 mph, closing windows and using A/C is better, because it avoids aerodynamic drag on the vehicle. Also use the “recycle inside air” feature to capitalize on already cooled air.

Maintain Optimum Highway Speed– The EPA estimates that in highway driving, every 5 miles over 60 mph is equivalent to paying 20 cents per gallon extra for gas. Staying below 60 mph can improve mileage by 7 to 23 percent.

Use Cruise Control – Tests conducted by found that using cruise control to maintain a steady speed during flat highway driving can provide an average of 7 percent in fuel savings (less in hilly terrain).

Navigate to Reduce Carbon Dioxide – Planning driving trips, including errands, saves time and increases motor vehicle efficiency. Electronic navigation helps find the shortest route to an unknown destination.

Avoid Idling, Even to Warm Up the Engine – According to the Environmental Defense Fund, autos may burn 20 to 70 percent of a gallon of fuel for every hour spent in curbside idling (the equivalent of 0 mpg). For trucks, it’s a full gallon. Unless quickly dropping off or picking up someone, turn the engine off when waiting for more than 10 seconds. It won’t harm the starter.

Even on the coldest mornings, engines warm up more effectively during actual driving (but avoid quick acceleration). Don’t step on the gas pedal before starting the car.

Keep Your Cool – The interior of a vehicle can reach 120 to 130° F in 10 minutes in summer. Use a heat reflector or window shades to shield the interior from UV rays. Always roll down the windows to release hot air. It’s best to park in a garage or available shade.

Obey the Check Engine Light – Today’s sophisticated onboard diagnostics systems continually monitor vehicle operation. When the alert light comes on, it may indicate that emissions have increased and fuel economy is going down, so always check it out.

Source: Adapted from

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